Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

space. In any case what was known as society being comparatively small her mind was fairly at ease. Nowadays there is nothing to prevent five or six hundred people splashing up in motors on the rainiest night.

You naturally argue that the hostess should restrict her invitations; but this would be difficult, if not dangerous. She would run the risk of some disappointed and embittered intellect starting an opposition party, making a point of poaching upon her preserves and of snatching her brightest stars. Also, she could not risk withholding invitations for fear of anyone possessing some spark of intelligence which had hitherto eluded her detection, and which a few experiences of salon life might draw forth-just as that odd, dry plant the rose of Jericho suddenly expands when placed in a glass of fresh water.

Imagine your annoyance if Cousin Virginia, denied the entrée to your "Saturday evenings," delighted a rival assembly with an exquisite satire upon the British Constitution? Or suppose you to have purposely forgotten the address of that shadow over your childhood and adolescence-the family friend-and the whole of the next day is blighted (and just think how easily an English Sunday can be blighted) by hearing that he gratified that same ruthless competitor by rendering, unasked, a spirited glee with matchless grace as a solo; accomplishing this unique effort (the perfect rendering of tenor, bass, and falsetto) to the universal stupefaction. Then there are the modern laws of copyright. Let us assume that after much trouble you have induced a playwright to oblige with a little playlet, and that you have (perhaps with less trouble) induced him to act the principal part therein. He would be terribly upset by finding that it had all been cabled immediately to America, and that after

this one performance, given gratis, all his hopes of emolument would have vanished. Shakespeare, of course, is a handy resource where catastrophes of this kind are to be avoided; but then Shakespeare would be a little old-fashioned in an up-to-date salon, and could not, I fear, act as a draw. Then would you, as hostess, be able to stand the strain of encouraging, soothing, and flattering all the rival talent? A labor arduous enough to turn any woman's hair gray (which of course did not matter in the days of powdered wigs).

I confess to being a heretic about salons. Surely time has handed us down softened and flattered pictures concerning this form of entertainment? You know the portraits of the Dutch school? The originals must have been singularly unpleasant-looking persons -for the most part: the male beings generally belonging to that type erroneously reputed to be beloved of women -namely, of the masterful kind; and the females usually of the cow-elephant variety. Yet we stand lost in admiration now that they have been softened and mellowed by the kindly hand of the centuries, and people (both those who know and otherwise) would make any sacrifice to possess one of these masterpieces.

I am sure that if I had lived in the days of salons, in the improbable event of my being bidden to one, I should have found the evening excessively tedious. It would have been impossible for me to avoid sharing the immense boredom of those who were, so to speak, in the character of audience, and who, having nothing to contribute to the programme, came from a sense of duty, or rather of fashion, and in order to talk about it next day. They, however, would be less depressing than others who, having nothing to say, were nevertheless unable to refrain from saying it. At an entertainment

of this description it is difficult to make a successful effort at exit: and so one would sit through several hours of mental affliction caused by the "original" blank verse, "original" musical composition, and "original" scintillating conversation of one's friends: the last greatly helped by quotations, since inverted commas are fortunately only visible in print.

Of course, Time has also obliterated the politely concealed yawns, the tactless if friendly welcome of old chestnuts, the coldness when jests fell flat, and the unseemly dash for supper as a longed-for termination to the proceedings-deplored only by the balked raconteur who, having laboriously led up to his best story, was prevented from telling it by the general exodus.

We still possess the lovely old furniture, the attractive snuff-boxes, the beautiful embroideries of that bygone age; and, if they could only speak, much illusion might be swept away: we should probably realize how many of these social efforts had failed, while others (notably those organized by ladies whose capabilities are best described by saying that they belonged rather to that order of salon to which the word "lit" is affixed in the French language) lost the high intellectual atmosphere with which they were originally surrounded; and, finally, how many more, mercifully forgotten, died of their own dulness?

Upon the whole our own bran-pie form of entertainment offers far more opportunity for joyous anticipation and amusement: the dinner parties where nobody is ever introduced to anyone, and where you may be sitting next to the long-sought ideal at last, orwhat is, of course, far from fun-to the exact opposite; the dances where you The Saturday Review.

rush up to the ballroom-shaking hands with one unknown, and taking equally rapid flight downstairs after having circled wildly round a crowded floor to the strains of a band playing at express speed; having sampled the garden-if there is one (there need not be the same hurry about this)—and so on to some other gaiety elsewhere.

Foreigners complain about our want of manners: we should instantly retort by commenting upon their lack of imagination. What can be so exciting and so full of possibilities as the unknown, whether in hostess or anything else? If, as some cynics pretend, the reality is never worth the dreamplease leave us the dream; the possible beginning of friendship or something more (this of course is addressed to spinsters only), the sudden meeting with the spirits of mirth and of merriment, and, better still, the unexpected arrival of a kindred spirit: all these amid the struggle and squash of revels, where, according to our unique British custom, the most extreme stiffness and the most casual informality walk hand in hand.

You see there is so little left to the imagination now-when aeroplanes are as common as birds, and when the North Pole will become so shortly the most fashionable of winter resorts, if not too overcrowded. If there is nothing hidden upon the face of the earth, how nice still not to know who it is who sits next you when you dine out; and we should be thankful that our kinematographic life in London still affords the quality of mystery and unexpectedness so lacking in the days of salons, when everyone knew the other only too well, and had only too much time in which to improve upon that melancholy knowledge.

BOOKS AND AUTHORS.

Since the publication of Archbishop Trench's volume "On the Study of Words," now many years ago, there has been no more illuminating book published in moderate compass upon the significance of word-changes than that contributed by Mr. Logan Pearsall Smith to the Home University Library upon "The English Language" (Henry Holt & Co.) The author touches briefly upon the origins of the language, and then proceeds to consider the foreign elements which enter into it, the character of modern English, the process of word-making and the contributions of some of the most prominent word-makers, and the history which is wrought into words and expressed in them. This last is one of the most interesting divisions of the book, for it would almost be possible to trace the chief events in English history and the shifting conditions of the English people in the new words introduced and the changing meanings of old words. Altogether, this little book is one that may be read and re-read with keen pleasure.

Carola Woerishoffer, the story of whose life and work is briefly told in a small volume published by the class of 1907, Bryn Mawr College, represented most strikingly what Miss Tarbell, in her Introduction, aptly characterizes as "the Revolt of the Young Rich," the passionate and at the same time practical sympathy felt by not a few very rich young men and women for the poor and the oppressed. Graduating from Bryn Mawr in 1907 and possessed of a large fortune, she threw herself with all the ardor of a strong young nature into social and charitable work in New York City. She joined the social settlement at Greenwich House; she offered herself as a worker

in the laundries of the city in order to accumulate facts for the Consumers' League, and spent four months in this hard and trying labor to get information at first hand; she gave bonds from her own fortune for the girls arrested in the shirt-waist strike; and she accepted the position of an investigator under the Bureau of Industries and Immigration,-in which work she lost her life, through an accident, last September. And in all this work she never sought notoriety. Hers was not one of the names frequently recurring in the newspapers. Hers was a noble, fearless and self-sacrificing life: the pity of it is that it should have been cut off at the age of twenty-six. little book which tells the story of it may be had from the Greenwich House, 26 Jones St., New York City.

The

The Macmillan Company are the American publishers of "The Life of William Robertson Smith" by John Sutherland Black and George Chrystal, and of a companion volume of "Lectures and Essays of William Robertson Smith." The two volumes,-the Life especially, but the other volume also as supplementing the Life by characteristic selections from Professor Smith's writings, recall theological controversies of thirty or forty years ago which seem now much farther removed into the past by reason of changes in currents of thought which have taken place in the interval. They also serve to throw light upon a character of singular strength and beauty, and upon the workings of a mind of rare scope and versatility. It was in 1875 that Professor Smith, who then held the chair of Hebrew in the Free Church College at Aberdeen, startled conservative theologians by his article on the Bible in the Encyclopædia Britannica. The

views which he expressed in this article were the occasion of his trial for heresy before the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland at Glasgow in May, 1878, ending, two years later, in the formal admonition by the Assembly, that he refrain from like errors in time to come. Then followed, almost immediately, the second trial of Professor Smith, grounded on his article on "Hebrew Language and Literature" which ended in his dismissal from his professorship in the College of Aberdeen. This was in May, 1881. Professor Smith's biographers, naturally, give a great deal of space to the proceedings at these two trials, with details of the specifications contained in the several libels on which the proceedings were based and a graphic summary of the debates and an account of the resulting divisions in the church. As the cases were epoch-making in the history of modern Biblical criticism, this is not to be regretted; but readers who care less for theological niceties than for the disclosure of a strong and lovable personality will find much to interest them in the intimate glimpses which the narrative gives of Professor Smith's character, both as a man and as a scholar. The lectures and essays in the accompanying volume show the breadth and thoroughness of Professor Smith's scholarship. They include acute discussions of scientific themes, Biblical and critical essays, Arabian studies and elaborate reviews of Wellhausen and Renan. There are a number of portraits in the Life and one in the other volume.

A new series of biographies called "The World's Leaders," and edited by W. P. Trent, is published by Henry Holt and Company. The purpose of the series is to give in a condensed and somewhat popular form the lives of the world's most famous men in every line

of human achievement. One of the completed volumes is "The World's Leading Poets" by H. W. Boynton. The author has chosen Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton and Goethe as the greatest. An outline of each poet's life is given, and a critical estimate of his more important works. In the case of disputed questions both sides are carefully, although briefly, weighed and considered. The prevailing note of the work is one of strong common sense. There is no ardent championing of one theory or denunciation of another. The author's own opinions are given firmly, but unobtrusively. He offers the fruit of much careful research without a trace of the pedant. The book is one by which the student can profit because of its clearness, and one to which the average man can turn for the kind of information he wishes. Another volume, "The World's Leading Painters" is by G. B. Rose. It is interesting not only as biography, but from a purely literary standpoint. The author's personality and his devotion to the Art of Renaissance clothe the statement of facts and the lucid criticism with a distinct charm. The painters chosen are Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Velasquez and Rembrandt. The life of each one is retold with a vividness which brings them as close as men one might meet to-day. In the Preface, the author makes an interesting statement. His views of famous paintings, he says, "will perhaps be found wanting in originality. This is not for want of patient study, but because great masterpieces are apt to make the same impression on normal minds." For this very reason his discussion of great pictures is comprehensible and delightful to the normal reader. ter so propitious a beginning the development of this Series will be awaited with agreeable anticipation.

Af

[blocks in formation]

II. This Desirable Planet To Let. By Gerald Stanley Lee.

Ill. Fortuna Chance. Chapter XXXV. Till Death. Chapter XXXVI.
Oyes! By James Prior. (To be concluded.)
IV. Is Art a Failure? By Robert Fowler.

V. Dostoevsky.

NATIONAL REVIEW 515

ENGLISH REVIEW 522

531

NINETEENTH CENTURY AND AFTER 542
TIMES 550

[ocr errors]

CHAMBERS's JOURNAL

555

VI. The Vengeance of Isaac Jesson. By C. Edwardes.
(To be concluded.)

VII. The Tactics of the Air.

VIII. "Heaven Lies about Us "

IX. Andrew Lang.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

SATURDAY REVIEW 569

EYE-WITNESS 571
ACADEMY 573

A PAGE OF VERSE.

XIII. Ben Jonson's "New Song" at the Mermaid Tavern.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

XV. Animula Vagula. By Archibald Young Campbell.
BOOKS AND AUTHORS

PUBLISHED EVERY SATURDAY BY

THE LIVING AGE COMPANY,

6 BEACON STREET, BOSTON.

TERMS OF SUBSCRIPTION

FOR SIX DOLLARS, remitted directly to the Publishers, THE LIVING AGE will be punctually forwarded for a year, free of postage, to any part of the United States. To Canada the postage is 50 cents per annum.

Remittances should be made by bank draft or check, or by post-office or express money order if possible. If neither of these can be procured, the money should be sent in a registered let ter. All postmasters are obliged to register letters when requested to do so. Drafts, checks, express and money orders should be made payable to the order of Tax LIVING AGE Co

Single Copies of THE LIVING AGE, 15 cents.

« ElőzőTovább »